The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

March Madness Down to Sweet Sixteen

Credit: Instagram

[Update: The tournament has reached the Final Four. The teams facing off this weekend [April 6] are UConn vs. Alabama, and Purdue vs. N.C. State.]

March has rolled around and that can only mean one thing: Madness.

The 68-team Division 1 NCAA Tournament tipped off this past week, beginning with a play-in game between Wagner and Howard on March 19, and will conclude with the national championship game on April 8.

The NCAA Division 1 season began all the way back in early Nov. and will end with a massive 68-team single elimination tournament. The tournament has been conducted every year since 1939, save for 2020. Since 2011, it has included the familiar 68 team number. The bracket is split into four regions, consisting of teams ranked 1-16. Winners move on to the next round, and the bracket is not reseeded.

The popular term “March Madness” was first used to refer to the famous tournament in 1982, and in the 1990s, the NCAA bought the trademark for the phrase, formalizing a historic phrase as its own. Last year, the UConn Huskies won their fifth national championship, and this year, they enter as the number one overall seed, trying to become the first team to go back-to-back since the 2006 and 2007 Florida Gators.

Senior Hudson Fulcher-Melendy is all in on the Huskies, picking them to win it all because “they have proven their ability to perform on the big stage” and “have tough veterans who have played in the tournament before.” He also noted their yearlong dominance, citing their 31-3 record and number one ranking in KenPom, a metric-based ranking system, and Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, a stat that displays a team’s points per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponent.

KenPom is named after statistician Ken Pomeroy, and houses season statistics dating back to 2002, and can be found at

Ben Farmer, Head Varsity Basketball Coach, believes in UConn too, citing their style of play and intense defensive acumen.

“They have taken a hybrid of European and American basketball and have made it almost impossible to defend,” he said. “Defensively, they’re very good too. [They have] very good on and off ball defenders and are so sound with the scouting report which is a testament to coaches and players.”

Farmer has a special place in his heart for the Huskies as he grew up a fan.

“I am from Connecticut, so I have always been a UConn and Big East fan,” he said. “I watched the old Big East growing up which really contributed to my love for the game of basketball, and I loved UConn.”

Farmer played college basketball at Marist College, another Division 1 program, located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Despite UConn’s popularity as a pick for national champion, history is not on their side. Since Florida repeated in 2007, only four out of 15 defending champions have made it past the round of 32, and none have made it further than the Sweet Sixteen.

Senior Catie Spence, who also does not watch college basketball, filled out her first ever bracket this year and picked UNC because “they let [her] in,” and “[she] liked their vibes,” but also because she had a general idea of their status as a highly ranked team. UNC is top-10 in adjusted offensive efficiency and top-20 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

UNC also lies within the “Trapezoid of Excellence,” which refers to a space on the upper two quadrants of a pace vs. net ranking adjusted for opponent graph. The Trapezoid has historically had a high success rate in picking national champions. This year, it includes UNC, Tennessee, Duke, Houston, Gonzaga, Auburn, UConn, Iowa State, and Purdue.

Omar Santoyo, a junior from Florence, chose Creighton, because of their high shooting ability.

“They might be inconsistent, but their defense is mad good so that makes up for it,” he said. “They’re kind of streaky so that might hurt them.”

Creighton’s team three-point percentage ranks in the top 10% of all division one teams, and have the 23rd ranked adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.

However, they too have history going against them. Since 1998, all but one national champion has made it to at least their conference tournament semifinal. Creighton, however, lost to Providence in the quarterfinals.

Jeff Warner, a senior from Northampton, chose the Houston Cougars, a team that surprised many fans by winning the Big 12 conference title in their first year in the conference, because he enjoyed the way they played all year.

“Houston was the most fun team I watched this winter,” he said. “They just looked faster than everybody else.”

Jeff has also enjoyed the story of NC State, a team that looked dead in the water by early March, finishing 10th in a mediocre ACC conference, before going on to win five games in a row in the conference tournament, beating Louisville, Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, and finally UNC to gain a bid to the NCAA tournament.

NC State’s center, a 6’9”, 275-pound senior named DJ Burns Jr., has become a star during their miraculous March run, and Jeff has taken notice of his solid play and good attitude.

“It was hard not to root for [NC State] in the ACC tournament, especially DJ Burns,” he said. “Sometimes you just look at these big guys and they just look so miserable, like they were forced to play basketball. But Burns genuinely looks like he’s enjoying himself.”

Besides coworker or friendly bracket pools, many people are taking to gambling on the tournament as a way of enjoying the games. In 2018, the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibited sports gambling, opening a world of online sports betting. Massachusetts legalized sports betting in 2022 for people 21 years or older.

According to the Manhattan Institute, “per-capita wagers on the NCAA tournament are expected to be larger than the Super Bowl.”

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    Jackson EstesApr 3, 2024 at 8:07 PM

    great to see this establishment return to its former T1 glory